The All-Star Break is a great opportunity for players around the league to catch their breath, heal some bumps and bruises, and prepare for the stretch run. It is also a great opportunity for the hockey universe to reflect on the state of the league and the community as a whole.
In recent months, issues surrounding representation and inclusion have charged to the forefront of our collective consciousness. Everything from the objectification of women in public (and in private) to questions about racial bias to the ongoing debate over analytics in the game have ignited fierce passions and helped turn an already tribalistic community into ever more isolated pockets.
But when the community bands together to become a community, the results are spectacular.
Fans from disparate backgrounds can come together at a moment's notice for truly noble causes, or to return a bit of normalcy to lives disrupted by circumstances out of their control. Fans raise money for people in need and team up with the clubs they love to make a difference in their communities. Unifying all fans, from all walks of life, at all times, and in all places is the shared love of the game.
That's why hockey is for everyone. It's for the third generation season ticket holder whose parents and grandparents remember watching Leafs games in Maple Leaf Gardens, and it's for the 17 year old who knew nothing about hockey but wanted a social life and fell in love with the game.
It's for the man in Quebec who grew up playing on frozen ponds in the winter, and it's for the woman in Southern California who makes .gifs of the best moments of the game and can discuss the intricacies of the game better than anyone else.
It's for the longtime columnist for a major media outlet who's spoken to the likes of Gretzky, Lemieux, and Coffey, and it's for the aspiring blogger who pores over NHL game footage on his laptop tracking zone entries and exits, hopeful that after sorting through a couple of thousand games worth of data he'll uncover trends that will become mainstream in hockey analytics departments league wide.
Hockey is for everyone. Or rather, hockey should be for everyone. It is incumbent on all of us to tear down barriers that prevent those who love the game as much (or as little) as anyone else from enjoying it.